Other Matters: Memory Of A Friend

Corky Ram

There is someone I think of every Memorial Day, and many other days. Cornelius Ram and I were among a collection of young men who accepted the United States Marine Corps’ bet that we weren’t tough or smart enough to wrestle commissions from it. It quickly became apparent to everyone, including the drill instructors charged with pounding us into the shape of Marines, that Corky Ram would have no problem. He was a standout in the grueling weeks of officer candidate competition and then in the … [Read more...]

The Desmond Training Room

Desmond Plaque

After the American Red Cross acknowledged the millions of dollars Paul Desmond left the organization (see this recent item), it also named a training room after him. The facility is in the national Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC. We're working on getting a picture of the training room and what goes on in it. In the meantime, Rifftides reader Frank Roellinger (thank you, sir) persuaded someone at the ARC to get a photograph of the plaque outside the room. Desmond died on Memorial … [Read more...]

Bud Shank’s Birthday

Bud Shank

Today is the 85th anniversary of the birth of alto saxophonist and flutist Bud Shank. One of the most respected of the musicians who flourished on the west coast in the fifties, he went on to gain worldwide popularity. Shank was especially popular in Brazil, whose music he was one of the first American jazz artists to adapt when he made the Brazilliance recordings with guitarist Laurindo Almeida in 1954. Here is a good way to remember him, in São Paulo in 2004, playing his composition … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Carter, Raney, Broadbent, Deardorf

Carter Caribbean

James Carter, Caribbean Rhapsody (Emarcy) Carter tailors his saxophone virtuosity to “Caribbean Rhapsody” and “Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra,” by the American composer Roberto Sierra. Sierra studied with György Ligeti, the Hungarian master of tone clusters and chromaticism, but there is no Ligeti atonality here. Sierra bases the pieces in lyricism and accessible melody. In the concerto with the Sinfonia Varsonia of Poland, and the rhapsody with a string quintet led by cellist Akua … [Read more...]

Correspondence: On Bruce Ricker

Chris, Iola

Chris Brubeck writes about the death of jazz film producer and director Bruce Ricker: The entire Brubeck family shares in the sorrow and shock of Bruce's death. We were aware of his hospitalization but felt comforted that modern medicine would triumph as usual. This time it didn't and I think Bruce Ricker's passing is a huge loss for his family, friends and also for the entire jazz community. Bruce had incredibly unique passions and talents which he poured into his film projects. There … [Read more...]

Other Matters: The River

Yakima High Water

The cycling schedule is full again. So are the rivers around here, swollen with snowmelt from the mountains, and roaring. Here's some of what I saw on a ride this afternoon, a section of the Yakima roaring along muddy and almost into the fields and towns. In the upper center, you see an enormous tree that the force of the water tore out of the bank somewhere upstream. Fifty yards from the river, all was serene. The view is west, toward the Cascades, where in spring the snow becomes water that … [Read more...]

Blogroll Update


The veteran writer and broadcaster Ted Panken has joined the burgeoning community of folks who blog about jazz. His weblog is called Today Is The Question. I have added it to the blogroll in the right-hand column. If you want to be sure Ted knows what he’s blogging about before you punch him up, read this first. It comes from pianist George Colligan’s jazztruth, whose address also goes into the blogroll. It’s getting crowded down there. You can’t blame anyone for wanting to get into so lucrative … [Read more...]

Sleuthing Rifftides


We are happy to report that the artsjournal.com technical wizards have tracked down and liquidated the gremlin that was disabling the "Older Posts" function at the bottom of the main page. Now, when you click on that command, it will take you to the previous 20 posts. Click on it again, you will see another 20, and so on back through the mists of time to the primitive beginnings of this blog in June of 2005. There are two other ways to search Rifftides: 1. Scroll down to "Archives" in the … [Read more...]

The End Of Elaine’s

Elaine Kaufman

There was a sad changing-times story this week in New York City, where it was big news. Elaine’s, the Upper East Side restaurant that for nearly five decades has been a meeting place and hangout for writers, theater and film people and a few musicians, is closing. Elaine Kaufman, who founded the restaurant, died last December. She left it to her manager, Diane Becker, who said business had dropped to the point where she can’t keep it going. The last meal—and the last drink at the long bar … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: Kirchner’s 100th

Kirchner, soprano

Bill Kirchner is a saxophonist, arranger, composer, teacher, editor and historian who finds time to also be a broadcaster. Since 2002, he has been a host on Jazz From The Archives, a highlight in the schedule of WBGO-FM, the Newark, New Jersey, jazz station. He has devoted 99 programs to the work of other leading musicians. There is a list of those shows on Kirchner’s website. This Sunday, for his 100th broadcast, he will feature his own music. From his announcement: I want it to be full of … [Read more...]

Woody Shaw: Ginseng People

Woody Shaw

Woody Shaw died 22 years ago this month. A trumpeter of power, taste, a subtle harmonic sense and admirable originality, Shaw was long burdened with critiques that described him as a disciple, if not a copy, of Freddie Hubbard, who was six years his senior. This recording they made together—out of print, expensive and worth finding—says otherwise. Before becoming a leader in the late 1970s, Shaw worked with Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Joe Henderson, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon and Gil Evans, among … [Read more...]

JJA Awards: It’s Already Been A Year?


The members have voted and the Jazz Journalists Association awards ceremony will be held on June 11 in New York City. Winners will be announced in 39 categories of musicians, writers, bloggers, videographers and photographers. Nominees for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz are Jimmy Heath, Muhal Richard Abrams, Paul Motian, Phil Woods and Wayne Shorter; for Musician of the Year, Esperanza Spalding, Jason Moran, Joe Lovano, Sonny Rollins and Vijay Iyer.   Rifftides is pleased to again be … [Read more...]

More On Ricker And The Blue Devils

Rifftides reader Charlton Price alerts us to an article that provides detail about Bruce Ricker’s days in Kansas City (see the post below) and the genesis of his film The Last of the Blue Devils. The piece is by Steve Paul in The Kansas City Star. It begins: Some of the details remain hazy, but it was 1975 in a small midtown supper club where a crowd of serious jazz people gathered to celebrate the past. Bruce Ricker, an attorney turned local activist and filmmaker, had been spending … [Read more...]

Bruce Ricker, Documentarian, RIP

Bruce Ricker

Bruce Ricker, the producer-director of a series of documentaries about American musicians, has died. He succumbed to pneumonia on Friday, May 13, at a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 68. Ricker’s most recent release was last year’s Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way. Among his other films were the stories of Jim Hall, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mercer and Thelonious Monk. He also produced the 1997 TV special Eastwood After Hours: Live at Carnegie Hall.   Born in Staten Island, … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Miguel Zenon In Spain

Zenon facing right

The Miguel Zenon Quartet with Luis Perdomo, piano; Hans Glawischnig, bass; and Henry Cole, drums, play “¿Que Sera de Puerto Rico?” in 2009 at the Teatro Central de Sevilla, Spain. This was the year following Zenon's winning one of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowships popularly known as "genius grants." … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Young Ella On Film

Ella Fitz (Young)

In what may have been her motion picture debut, here is Ella Fizgerald at 25 in the 1942 Abbott and Costello comedy Ride ‘Em Cowboy. With her in the sequence are the Merry Macs singing and the Lindy Hoppers lindy-hopping. This was at about the time she had stopped fronting the Chick Webb band and moved into a solo career. Fitzgerald’s first professional ambition was to be a dancer. That’s not her job here, but check out her moves as she comes onto the set. … [Read more...]

Query: The Jazz Goes To Junior College Car

Brubeck Jr College

Rifftides Reader Andrew Dowd writes: You may recall me as the fellow who hosts a jazz show on KMHD in Portland OR, on Saturday nights. A few weeks ago I got out an old dusty copy of The Dave Brubeck Quartet's Jazz Goes to Junior College, (Columbia CL1034, 1957), that I had in my collection and played a track from it on my show. I was glancing at the cover illustration, as I often do, and noticed that there is a photo of an old late-40's black convertible with three children sitting in … [Read more...]

Snooky Young, 1919-2011

Snooky Young

Intial reports that Snooky Young died on May 5 were in error. He died on Wednesday, May 11, at home in Newport Beach, California. He was 92. The cause of death was a lung disease that developed recently. Young was that rare combination, a great lead trumpeter who was also a soloist of exceptional imagination, taste and humor. He began as a professional musician when he was a teenager in Dayton, Ohio. At 20, he joined the Jimmie Lunceford band and in the course of his career played key roles … [Read more...]

Other Places: A JazzFest Post-Mortem

JazzFest wide shot-thumb-264x191-18790

In January, after looking over the lineup for this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which was laden with rock and pop, I wrote: More than five years after Katrina, with the city recovering but much of it still resembling a post-war nightmare, a party called a jazz festival symbolizes New Orleans’ determination to recover. That speaks of a spirit that rises from within New Orleanians and cuts through a malaise of failed leadership, politics and bureaucracy. For eight years, I … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Reprimand And Penance

Miller Williams

A Rifftides archive browser who identifies himself only as Hank wrote to take me to task: I feel certain you are friends with Miller Williams. My main comment is that if you are going to publish online his poetry, it seems you would want to get it right. There are numerous errors in the poem I found on this site, from formatting to punctuation to capitalization. Not meaning to get on your case about this, but I did notice it. I send this respectfully. Over the past six … [Read more...]

How To Subscribe


Lately, readers have asked how to sign up for Rifftides RSS feeds and be notified of new posts and comments. On the right side of the blue bar at the top of the screen, you will see a pair of symbols like this. Click on the one next to "Posts" or the one next to "Comments," or both, and then click on "Subscribe." Voila! … [Read more...]

A Clifford Jordan Revival

Clifford Jordan

Rifftides reader Debra Kinzler’s notice that a quartet of Clifford Jordan's admirers will revive his Glass Bead Games prompts me to post a slightly revised version of a 2007 piece about a landmark recording that became unavailable for too long. Ms. Kinzler informs us that tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist Eric Reed, drummer Billy Drummond and bassist Dezron Douglas will perform Jordan’s work in an engagement May 17-22 at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York. She describes the 1974 album as … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Jazz Kids In New Orleans

New Orleans is the only place I know of where you ask a little kid what he wants to be and instead of saying "I want to be a policeman," or "I want to be a fireman," he says, I want to be a musician."—Alan Jaffe I was just like the rest of the kids, wanted to now all about that new music called jazz. I was a second-line kid. That meant I’d follow the big bands down the street and, man, what a thrill when Tio or George Baquet would let me carry their cases while they played!—Albert … [Read more...]


All About Jazz JerryJazzMusician Carol Sloane: SloaneView Jazz Beyond Jazz: Howard Mandel The Gig: Nate Chinen Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong Here, There and Everywhere: Don Heckman Ted Panken: Today is The Question George Colligan: jazztruth Brilliant Corners BostonJazzBlog Jazz Music Blog: Tom Reney Brubeck Institute Mule Walk And Jazz Talk Darcy James Argue Jazz Profiles: Steve Cerra Notes On Jazz: Ralph Miriello Patrick Jarrenwattanon: A Blog Supreme Bob Porter: Jazz … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Sancton On Stage

Sancton Book

Five years ago, I wrote about Tom Sancton’s book Song For My Fathers being assigned reading for Tulane University’s incoming students. That venerable school chose it to give the freshmen a shared intellectual experience that would stimulate discussion. Not incidentally, it would also acquaint them with a profound aspect of the culture and caché of Tulane's home, New Orleans. A respected correspondent, an overseas bureau chief and a clarinetist who mastered the traditional music of his … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: James Farm, Allen, Anschell, Et Al

James Farm

This is the latest of our periodic efforts to keep up with recorded music. Some of these CDs are recent. Some have been languishing in the holding pen for months. Some are timeless standard repertoire items that the Rifftides staff believes everyone should know about. The album titles in blue italics are links. Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, Eric Harland, James Farm (Nonesuch) For the most part, leaderless cooperatives in jazz have assembled to record and then gone their separate … [Read more...]